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The Green SheetGreen Sheet

The Green Sheet Online Edition

June 25, 2007 • Issue 07:06:02

What do your customers say about you?

By Joel and Rachael Rydbeck
Nubrek Inc.

In this enlightened age, almost every piece of data imaginable is just a mouse click away. However, sometimes delving into the merchant's mindset is completely overlooked. It is easy to examine conversion rates and profits to analyze selling skills. But how well do you know your clients?

It can never hurt to stay in touch with your customers to make sure they are still satisfied with the services they are receiving. There are several ways to do this.

Past articles we've written have discussed providing online chat support and newsletters. This article is devoted to customer surveys.

Over the last few months, we have collected information on various survey tools. Almost every week, one of our service providers or partners asks us to fill out a survey. We even received one just before writing this article. Surveys are an ideal way for customers to express their opinions.

Our least favorite surveys promise to take only a minute of your time, and you end up spending half an hour answering pointless questions that all sound the same.

Our favorite surveys, and the ones we are going to discuss in this article, contain only a few well-worded questions, and that is it. The good news is many survey tools are free if you have a modest distribution list.

First, we'll take a look at survey basics, check out a few great products, suggest some do's and don'ts and then discuss what to do with the data. Surveying in a nutshell

Here are four easy steps to carrying out a survey:

  • Define the purpose of the survey.
  • Select a survey production tool that will meet your needs.
  • Write the survey.
  • Analyze the results.

    Why conduct a survey?

    Before you send out a survey, make sure your survey has a point. Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish.

    When planning our product timeline, we send out a questionnaire or a survey asking our customers where their pain points are or asking what features they would like to see added to our product. A survey helps us align our product with our customers' needs.

    If you are providing ongoing service, customer satisfaction might rank high on your list.

    Our next survey will ask our customers if they would like to receive our quarterly newsletter discussing new features and upcoming training sessions.

    If you have something to offer or want to see if there is interest in a potential new product, a survey is an effective, inexpensive way to test the waters.

    By keeping it short and respecting our customers' time, we are able to repeatedly collect their views.

    Another valuable function of a survey is to see if your customers had or are having a good experience with your company.

    Every time we use LivePerson (Authorize.Net's online customer service chat vehicle) a pop-up survey appears at the end of our session asking how our experience was.

    This gives us a great opportunity to give immediate feedback. However, we find that since it appears every time, we have begun to ignore it unless we have a complaint.

    Products to peruse

    We only have space to review a few products even though there are dozens of excellent choices out there. We picked products that span the gamut from free to inexpensive.

    The more expensive solutions are software-based rather than Web-based. We prefer the online products because they are cheaper, require less set-up and support, and you do not have to host them on your own server.

    SurveyMethods

    This company's Web site was definitely the friendliest we found and afforded the most information on the product. Pricing ranged from free to $39.99 a month.

    We really liked the charting and graphing provided, and the thank-you greeting was a nice touch. The mid-tier package is $9 monthly.

    For the price, it offered a substantial number of features. Getting signed up and started was very simple. Visit www.surveymethods.com for more information.

    SurveyMonkey.com

    We heard about SurveyMonkey because we had filled out so many surveys from this service and really liked the layout and simplicity of the interface.

    This application ranges from free to $200 a year. It seems to have a lot of bells and whistles, including prewritten questions, survey themes and organized ways to view output.

    Things we particularly liked were how easy it is to get started and the ability to see a history of the surveys you sent. The company's Web site is www.surveymonkey.com.

    Zoomerang

    When we received this survey, we appreciated the format. It was very easy to set up. A little pricier, the packages range from free to $599 per year.

    The free package allows you to ask up to 30 questions and receive up to 100 user responses. The expensive package provides templates, customizations and advanced reporting options. For full details, visit www.zoomerang.com.

    Do's and Don'ts

    Following are some tips that should help you in writing your surveys:

    • Don't combine two questions into one.
    • Give appropriate options for the questions. Nothing is more frustrating than not seeing the right option. Even a "none of the above" choice or a text box that allows users to explain themselves are very helpful.
    • Don't abuse surveys by making them too long or sending them too often.
    • Offer one prize drawing per survey for all returned responses.
    • Have someone else (preferably a close customer or the like) fill out the survey before you distribute it to ensure the questions are straightforward.
    • Make sure the survey looks professional, friendly and easy to use. (Some survey tools allow you to personalize the survey by including the recipient's name in them.)
    • Make sure survey participants know how the information they provide will be used.

    Analyze your results

    This is perhaps the most important step in the survey process. The entire reason for sending out a survey is to analyze the results.

    As you compare products, pay special attention to the manner in which feedback is given to you. Will data come in PDF format or have cool visual charts? Also, make sure you can access the results long after the survey has been completed.

    Whatever your reasons for sending out a survey, the people who fill it out are doing so in the hopes that their views will make an impression.

    One way to show your appreciation and let users know they were listened to is to send out a follow-up e-mail detailing how the data you received will help affirm or shape a direction your company is taking.

    Send out a survey only if you really want to hear from your customers.

    Once they voice their opinions, they may expect to see results, whether that is better customer service, improved product offerings, lower prices or something else of importance to them.

    You can't always satisfy everyone, but keeping a good pulse on what your customers want will assist you in keeping them content and loyal for a long time. end of article

    Joel Rydbeck, Chief Technology Officer of Nubrek Inc., brings his strong background in e-commerce and business process automation to the merchant services industry. Rachael Rydbeck, President of the company, has a background in product management and technical writing. Nubrek offers eISO, a Web application for ISOs that tracks leads and provides automated residual and commission reports. For more information on eISO or to view a free demo, visit www.nubrek.com/eiso.html. E-mail Joel at rachael@nubrek.com. You have nothing to lose but your next sale.

    Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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